Part of our stay in the Bay Area was in Hayward, where my cousin Ken lives. From here to San Francisco, it is convenient to take a 20-minute drive over the San Mateo Bridge to get to San Mateo first, and it only takes another 20 miles (32 km) up north to reach San Francisco. So we decided to stop at Liuyishou Hotpot San Mateo for lunch on our way.
San Mateo is a lovely seaside city with a population of 100k, where green spreads everywhere and the locals are friendly. With about 20% of the population being Asian including 8% Chinese, there isn’t a lack of options if you are craving for Chinese food. The locals seem to be crazy about the new Liuyishou outlet opened a year ago. It still takes over an hour waiting for a table on the weekends. I’m anxious to find out how this location different from the ones that we have in Canada.
The restaurant is spacious with high ceilings and modern light fixtures, providing great airflow that a hotpot restaurant requires, imagining guests are all sitting around a pot of hot steaming soup. The decors are simple but elegant, and it is fun to look at the drawings of Chongqing hotpot history and culture on the walls.
Unlike most Liuyishou locations that I have been to, the sauce and appetizer station is not against the wall, which seems more efficient. The set up allows more people preparing their own sauce or grabbing small snacks at the same time.
An open kitchen is behind the glass where you can see them cutting and prepping the quality meat slices for hotpot.
Food-wise, franchise owner Stanley recommended the four dishes that you can only find at the San Mateo location. For the hotpot soup, the Green Sichuan Peppercorn Hotpot Soup was the latest import, although it has been popular for years in Chongqing and Sichuan regions. Compared to the traditional red “mala” spicy soup, the green spicy soup is easy on heat because there is no red chili, but it still gives the fun numbing sensation via the peppercorn.
The spicy soup was perfectly paired with the garden-fresh Tomato Soup. Most hotpot fans know that it’s always better to have the 2-side pot with 2 different soups to enjoy cooking in hotpot – switching up the soups would make each taste stand out more in contrast. Magically, the next recommended dish, Red Wine Beef, goes extremely well with the tomato soup. I totally tasted the red wine after the beef was cooked. The beef dish comes in with a fun presentation, in which the plate of raw beef slices is served with an upside-down glass of red wine placed in the middle, and the wine is released table-side, covering the beef slices.
The “Gong Cai”, or “Gong Choy” in Cantonese, is made with dried lettuce stems and has a noodle shape. As both vegetables and noodles are popular in hotpot meals, this dish kills 2 birds with one stone. After it’s cooked, it tastes like noodles but with a slightly crunchy texture, which is very unique and interesting. It’s a rather enjoyable dish.
Although not exclusive at the Liuyishou San Mateo, the Seafood Platter is still highly recommended. The platter is filled with fresh oysters, white fish, shrimps, baby squid, and mussels, which all go well with the Green Sichuan Peppercorn Soup. Again, the green soup is not as spicy as the traditional red “mala” soup, you can still taste the sweetness of seafood after cooking in the soup. Seafood tastes great in the tomato soup too – this explains why bouillabaisse is so delicious.
Last but not least, we have to mention a fabulous dessert here. Liuyishou San Mateo collaborates with the Luluyum, and serves the French-inspired dessert shop’s most popular specialty, the Passion Fruit Mille Crepe Cake. It is a light, delectable choice for your sweet tooth that’s super refreshing after a big feast of hotpot.
They have an extensive alcohol menu here, with beers, wines, and some liquor options. For non-alcoholic, the plum juice is a must and it is freshly made in house.
It was great to discover the 4 things that are exclusive only at this location from the other Liuyishou restaurants in North America. They are the Green Sichuan Peppercorn Soup, the Gong Cai (dried lettuce stems), the Red Wine Beef, and the Passionfruit Mille Crepe Cake. Authenticity and quality really make the food awesome here, something you probably won’t be able to find even in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
Liuyishou Hotpot San Mateo
98 E 3rd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401, USA
* All food and beverages tasted in this post were complimentary. Opinions are on the reviewer’s own.